Two held over Venezuelan 'assassination plot'

Venezuelan authorities have arrested two people suspected of plotting to kill Hugo Chavez by blowing up the president’s plane with an anti-tank weapon, the country’s top security official said.

Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami said the suspects were apprehended during a raid on a house in western Zulia state, where authorities found a recoilless anti-tank weapon and four grenades.

He said the names of the suspects would not be revealed for “strategic reasons”.

Mr El Aissami did not explain when and where the alleged conspirators planned to target Mr Chavez’s plane. Zulia is located along Venezuela’s border with Colombia about 310 miles west of Caracas.

At least six people, including retired and active military officers, have been detained so far for alleged links to the plot. Military prosecutors are questioning others. None of the suspects has been formally charged.

“What was being planned here was the president’s assassination ... a plan with the objective of sowing violence in our country” and stopping the government agenda, Mr El Aissami said.

Mr El Aissami said the suspects caught in Zulia could have been planning to kill the president by shooting down the presidential jet – a possibility that Mr Chavez raised when the purported plot was first discovered.

“The cannon we found is for downing planes. It has highly destructive power,” he said.

Mr Chavez claims that radicals backed by the United States are plotting to assassinate him. The socialist leader recently ordered the US Ambassador Patrick Duddy to leave Venezuela, accusing the envoy of aiding the purported plot. US officials deny it.

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